Swansea Channel dredging


Project overview

Transport for NSW Maritime is funding dredging of Swansea Channel to improve navigation and provide access to Lake Macquarie.

Latest news

January 2024 – Dredging complete

Lake Macquarie boaters can now enjoy better access to Lake Macquarie, as Transport for NSW completes stage one of dredging in the Swansea Channel. 16,690 cubic metres of sand were removed from three areas to create a 30-metre-wide channel, extending from the Dog Leg southeast of Elizabeth Island, up to the Drop Over northwest of the Swan Bay Entrance.

This work completes the first phase of this two-stage dredging campaign to create a safe, navigable channel for boats, with more dredging scheduled to begin mid-2024. Boaters can find more information about the channel depth by viewing the post-dredge hydrographic survey, available here.

As part of the dredging project, Transport for NSW has been working with experts to create a desirable breeding area for the endangered birds by placing dredged sand on Elizabeth Island. Lake Macquarie is now awash with adorable Little Tern chicks, with our experts counting eight nests and at least ten chicks in the area.

December 2023 - Community update

Transport for NSW continues dredging the Swansea Channel and we expect the work completed to date will greatly improve access for many boaters.  
Due to adverse weather conditions and mechanical issues with the dredge, we will need to return to finalise dredging in January.

Dredging of the Dog Leg area is complete, with the results of our hydrographic survey now available (see the survey under Project Documents below). The work on the Dog Leg involved the majority of sand movement and improves navigation through the channel.

We have completed some dredging at the Drop Over, before moving to the Swan Bay entrance for better protection from incoming adverse weather. We will continue working in that area until 24 December.

From 24 December, the dredge will demobilise so the public can enjoy using the channel during the holidays.

Navigational markers have been put in place this week, and to assist boaters in determining if the area is safe and navigable for their vessel. All work for this year is now complete and the very latest results are shown in the Hydrographic surveys in the Navigation In formation section below.

We would like to remind boaters that conditions and depths can change regularly so caution should be used when navigating in the area. 

Our contractor will be back on site to remobilise the dredge and resume works in January. 

We apologise for any inconvenience and thank the community for their ongoing patience. 

Please read the December 2023 community update and see the latest Hydrographic Survey (PDF, 2.58 MB) (which shows current water depths) under Project Documents on this page.

November 2023 - Dredging progress update

The current dredging campaign in the Swansea Channel involves three areas:

  • the Dog Leg
  • the Swan Bay Entrance
  • the Drop Over

As per our last update, we indicated that the first section of work in the Dog Leg area would be completed by the end of November.  

Movement of sand within the Dog-Leg section is complete, with a post-dredge hydrographic survey scheduled for next week to ensure the desired depth and width has been achieved.
The work on the Dog Leg involved the vast majority of sand movement and improves movement through the channel.  However, we understand that some vessels with larger drafts may still be impacted until the other two sections are also complete.  
Upon completion of hydrographic survey at the Dog Leg section, the dredge will move to the Swan Bay Entrance and the Drop Over to remove the remainder of sand, which is about 3,000 cubic metres.
The campaign of all three areas is expected to be completed by mid-December, weather permitting.  
The dredge will still be operating in the channel until this time, and we ask vessels to be aware of dredging work taking place, including sand pipes within the water.  
We will share the hydrographic surveys once they are completed, which may provide some additional information for boaters.


Project information


Swansea Channel connects Lake Macquarie to the Pacific Ocean and Is the only entrance to the popular boating area in the Hunter region. Lake Macquarie is twice the size of Sydney Harbour and the largest saltwater lake in the Southern Hemisphere.

The history of Swansea Channel indicates that this is not a natural continually open navigational channel into Lake Macquarie. Since 1970 Swansea Channel has been dredged 20 times.

Interventions such as the construction of the Lake Macquarie Entrance Breakwaters in the late 1800s were built to allow larger vessels in for industry purposes.

Due to the dynamic nature of Swansea Channel there will be continual need for interventions such as dredging to maintain the channel.

While there is good access to the lake for the majority of users with boats on trailers that can launch from one of the many boat ramps around the shoreline, maintaining access to the ocean through the narrow Swansea Channel is of major importance to recreational boating in the region, particularly cruising yacht clubs.

What are we doing?

Transport for NSW is developing short and long-term options to address the sand build-up at the Swansea Channel, to and ensure the channel remains clear and open to vessels.

Maintenance dredging work will be carried out this year and will remove up to 30,000 cubic metres and provide a 30 metre wide channel to allow for vessels with draft of up to 2.5 metre.

We are seeking approval of a 10-year plan to carry out maintenance dredging of the Swansea Channel. This will look at long term dredging solutions. We will also seek environmental approvals and licenses for larger dredging campaigns to be undertaken. These campaigns will be subject to funding availability.

Next steps

  • All approvals and licences have now been obtained.
  • A contract has been awarded to GPM Marine.
  • The first area, the Dog Leg is completed.
  • We will monitor the Channel over the summer period and begin the second stage of dredging for mid 2024.

Swansea Channel current navigation advice

During the holidays the dredge will demobilise and move out of the channel. It will return to work zone in early January.

Navigational aids have been re-installed in the main channel, allowing boaters to use both Main Channel and Airforce Channel. Safe navigation through any channel is the responsibility of the vessel master, considering a range of factors including the size and draft of their vessel, weather, tides, water depths and the speed at which they travel.

Conditions and depths can change regularly so caution should be used when navigating the area. Skippers of deep-drafted vessels are advised to carefully plan any trips in this area, navigate with caution and if in doubt, avoid the trip entirely.

Community information

Community updates

Project documents

Some documents on this page may not comply with accessibility requirements (WCAG). If you are having trouble accessing information in these documents, please contact us.

Environmental Approval

Water depth information

Contact us

For more information contact the project team:

Phone: 1800 271 100

Email: SwanseaChannelDredging@transport.nsw.gov.au

On this page you can find all Maritime projects related to Maritime property and commercial, environmental and ferry wharf upgrade programs.